Guest Blog: Director of Product Management at Adobe, Bryan O’Neil Hughes

Bryan O’Neil Hughes will be teaching at Photoshop World Las Vegas, taking place August 21-23, so register now to come see him in person!

Drawing Upon Past Experience

Getting to post on Scott’s blog is always a treat, thanks for having me back!

This month marks twenty years at Adobe for me! Looking back, it still feels like a dream. I first got into photography when I was seven (largely because I couldn’t draw); and when I say I got into it, I mean, I went DEEP. My passion for cameras had me doing anything and everything related to the medium – eventually processing and printing photos; repairing and selling cameras; even freelancing as a motorsports photographer.

Then, in 1996, photography introduced me to Photoshop at a Seybold seminar. I must’ve watched Adobe’s Photoshop 4.0 demo 5X over that day – it was immediately obvious to me that my future had something to do with the magic happening at Adobe.

“Obsession” is way too weak a word…within months, I’d packed-up and moved to Silicon Valley with the single-minded intent of working at Adobe.  That sounds ridiculous and it absolutely was; I didn’t even own a computer! With the naivety of youth, I never accepted any other path; an interim job handling digital retouching orders for two dozen camera stores solved my computer & Photoshop problems.

I joined Adobe in the Summer of 1999 as a Quality Engineer on the Photoshop team, the job was essentially: test and break the app – I was completely in heaven! Stepping into product management nearly 15 years ago was another impossible dream come true; the opportunity to help guide Photoshop for so many years taught me a lot about the many ways that people use the application & how software is made. While I’ve spent most of my career looking forward, it’s interesting to look back at my years on the Photoshop team and to see how much the product and the workflows have changed.

I’m often asked, “How has Photoshop endured the test of time?” Sure, there’s the fact that the Photoshop team has always charted their own course; constantly innovated; expanded platforms & services – all while maintaining a very high bar for quality & performance…but there’s more to it than that. I think that much of Photoshop’s success can be attributed to the product’s ability to adapt.

Photoshop’s plug-in architecture has always allowed developers to communicate directly with the product – whether that’s bringing in unique file formats; exporting to specialized devices, or just adding missing functionality. That same flexibility exists within the fabric of the team, whether pivoting Photoshop to the growing needs of web designers with version 5.5; welcoming the digital camera boom with version 7.0.1, or exploring entirely new verticals; there are hundreds of examples of the team addressing the needs of a new or expanding segment.

The other thing about the Photoshop team, is that they know when the solution lies beyond Photoshop itself. The example of Camera Raw is a good one; at the time, we were seeing the mass proliferation of digital cameras; suddenly photographers expected Photoshop to deal with thousands of images, not the one-at-time workflow that it was originally built for. Photoshop answered that call with the File Browser (which would later become Bridge) and Camera Raw.

While this acknowledged a massive shift in I/O, the world was changing dramatically, digital photography wasn’t just for tech-savvy, early adopters, but for everyone and new devices required a streamlined, focused, editing solution and a digital asset manager in one…that solution would of course become Lightroom, a product I continue to be very closely involved with, both as a user and a spokesperson.

Lightroom allows me to use Photoshop for what Photoshop does best – while moving faster and shooting more. Because of Lightroom, I’m both more creative and more efficient. Lightroom and Photoshop have never been more closely integrated than they are today, thanks to Creative Cloud. Creative Cloud allows Photoshop to integrate deeply across application, surfaces and platforms – keeping Photoshop as the hub of hundreds of creative workflows. Clearly, sometimes the best solution to the problem is a brand-new product.

There are, of course, many other examples of Photoshop passing the baton while integrating deeply; the exciting, new, Adobe XD certainly comes to mind. However, if I’m to use this time wisely, I should tell you about the one that’s right around the corner and very close to my heart – Adobe Fresco (which you may know from last year’s Adobe MAX as Project Gemini)

Fresco is a focused drawing & painting application designed to be easy enough for anyone and yet powerful enough for professionals. Fresco uses a design language familiar to desktop users, but it’s very much built for touch & stylus, so you’ll be able to produce extremely high-fidelity work: quickly, intuitively – anywhere.

While Fresco is a new product, Principal Product Manager, Will Eisley; Lead Designer, Brooke Hopper & their incredible teams have actually been working on this for a very long time. We released Adobe Ideas, the platform’s first vector drawing app, the day the first iPad was released; from there we experimented, iterated, evolved and learned…a lot.

Today’s cross-platform, free, mobile apps, Photoshop Sketch & Illustrator Draw (an evolution of Ideas) are powerful examples of our inroads into the drawing & painting space.  Fresco brings Photoshop Sketch’s raster sketching & painting tools together with Illustrator Draw’s infinitely scalable vector drawing & painting tools in one smart solution; it delivers an ever-expanding library of world-class brushes (including the never-before-seen Live Brushes, which beautifully simulate oil paint and watercolor) and it leverages the power of Creative Cloud to share work across devices & integrate deeply with other Adobe products & services.

Like the birth of desktop publishing, the story of Fresco is really about the convergence of software, hardware and the glue between them…while we were evolving our drawing & painting tools, the hardware changed too; the arrival of Apple’s iPad Pro & Pencil in late 2015 steered the course of our development – mobile devices were suddenly ready to do very serious work and our users expected pro-grade solutions.  The last pieces in the puzzle, the operating system, have also significantly changed over time, never has that been more evident than what we see ahead in the forthcoming iPad OS!

So, enough about how we got here…let’s take a look at the app! Rather than attempt to describe the incredible power and fluidity of this project, I’ll let this great video by my friend & colleague, Kyle Webster, do the talking.

Kyle isn’t just handy with a brush, he’s a one-man brush factory (Kyle is a VERY prolific creator of Photoshop brushes)! As Adobe’s drawing & painting evangelist, Kyle represents the artist’s perspective to both the Photoshop & Fresco teams. Part of what makes Fresco’s commitment to this segment so exciting is the content, power & SPEED of our brush engine. In the same way that Lightroom is built for photographers, by photographers – I can promise you that Fresco has extremely passionate artists contributing to the direction and details of our commitment to this segment.

When I think back on the impact that digital cameras and Lightroom had on the early digital photo adopters and legacy film shooters, I’m just as excited for Fresco!  I believe that the portability, precision, high-resolution output, playful brushes & infinitely editable artwork will bring many analogue hold-outs into a digital workflow…and while Photoshop will continue to expand what’s possible with drawing & painting, Fresco will chart a new course, for an expanding audience; while deeply integrating with the Photoshop “hub.”

I mentioned that we’re very close, but not quite done, I’m guessing you’d like to learn more. We’re building Fresco first for the iPad; all current iPads support Apple Pencil, offering a precise & intuitive way to enjoy Fresco’s power.  However, just as we’ve done with Photoshop & Lightroom, we’re actively developing for Windows as well.

Here’s a dedicated page telling you even more about this exciting new application – including a mechanism to sign-up for the pre-release!

Here’s just some of the early work we’ve seen from pre-release artists:

If you’d like to see more drawings & paintings created in tools like Fresco, Capture & Photoshop, you should definitely be following our new Adobe Drawing Instagram channel.

As for me, I still feel like that “kid” that joined Adobe, 20 years ago. In-fact, I’m more excited than ever. In 2015 I committed myself entirely to a series of next-generation efforts, taking many years of professional desktop experience to new users, devices and workflows. Delivering uncompromised creative solutions everywhere, remains my North Star, whether that’s my role supporting Lightroom or directing the product managers on Fresco, Capture and more. With Fresco, I’m finally drawing – feeling empowered (and not wasting a bunch of supplies as I learn ;-) Some things never change, I’ll (of course) be teaching at Photoshop World – I hope to see some of you there!

Thank you for looking backwards and forwards with me; I cannot wait to see what you create in Adobe Fresco, Photoshop, Lightroom and more!

-Bryan O’Neil Hughes

Bryan O’Neil Hughes is Director of Product Management & Partner Outreach at Adobe, overseeing a portfolio of Creative Cloud applications & services. Bryan has been product owner for both flagship desktop applications & class-leading, 1.0 mobile products. Since 1999 he has helped to drive product vision, strategy, roadmaps; to demonstrate, & lead product teams & to harness feedback for Adobe’s professional desktop & mobile apps. Hughes is passionate about partnerships & is a champion of many collaborative efforts both within & beyond Adobe. Hughes is one of Adobe’s primary spokespeople, representing the company across creative segments & platforms. Outside of Adobe, Bryan can often be found leading keynotes, seminars, user groups, & workshops.

Bryan is a featured keynote speaker at Adobe MAX (5X Keynote, 5X Master), Photoshop World, Photo Plus Expo, Photokina, WPPI & many more. Bryan has authored original content for dozens of publications & several original series for Adobe (Bryan’s videos have enjoyed over 15M views).

Before joining Adobe, Bryan was a professional photographer & retoucher. Beyond Adobe, Hughes is a regularly published photographer, editor, & the author of dozens of magazine articles & two books. Hughes continues to license imagery professionally. Hughes is also a driving instructor for the BMW Car Club of America — when he isn’t driving very quickly, he enjoys running marathons very slowly.

Bryan O’Neil Hughes was inducted into the Photoshop Hall of Fame in 2011.

You can see more of his work on his portfolio, and keep up with him on Instagram and Behance.

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